Luka opened his eyes, and stared at an unfamiliar white ceiling. He felt heavy and slow, as though he were waking from a deep sleep. But...he hadn’t been asleep, and this wasn’t his room. There was no steady motion, the ceiling was too high and too white. He moved slowly, looking around at a sunny, cheerful...apartment? His arm came down from where it had been over his head and he felt fabric under his hand; he was laying on a couch.
Luka shifted and sat up slowly. There was a hiss and a small weight tumbled off his chest. He put up his hand to catch it, but missed as he was distracted by the sight of his own arm. Specifically, at the snake tattoo winding up his forearm that he definitely didn’t have this morning.
“Luka,” a raspy voice complained. “A little warning next time.” A small green snake-like being floated into his vision. Luka’s eyes went huge and he started to hyperventilate.
“What the hell?” he whispered. “What—what are you? How do you know my name? Where am I? What the hell is going on?” Some instinct kept his voice low, though his pitch increased with his panic.
The floating snake being’s eyes narrowed, and he floated closer. “I am Ssssasssss, your kwami. Have you had a nightmare?.”
“Kwami? What’s—what is that? And what do you mean, you’re mine?”
Sass floated closer still, and Luka froze as the little kwami’s slit-pupils eyes filled his vision. He felt a light touch on his face. “You are out of your time,” the kwami said cryptically, backing away to a more comfortable distance. “What issss the last thing you remember?”
Luka frowned, thinking. “I took a walk down the Seine. I found a nice spot and I was playing my guitar. The music festival's in a couple of weeks and I was working on a song. Then there was—“ His eyes widened. “I was hit by an akuma.”
“Ah. Excussse me a moment. Wait here, I will return.” The...what the hell was a kwami anyway? zipped away deeper in the apartment.
Luka sat there, confused and a little scared. For lack of anything else to do, he lifted his arm and looked at the tattoo again. It was actually pretty sick, a hooded cobra with a diamond pattern on its back, intertwined with flowers. He wondered if he had any others.
Luka looked up as Sass returned. Sass seemed to relax, folding his legs in midair and curling his tail around his body. Distantly Luka recognized the diamond pattern on the kwami’s tail as the same one on his arm. “There issss no need to fear.” Sass told him. “Your mind will return to your time when Flash Forward is defeated and Ladybug cleansesss the akuma and sssendsss the cure. It should take no more than a few hours.”
“My time?” Luka asked, bewildered. “Where am I now?”
“Thisss isss your home,” Sass replied calmly. “But the better question isss when are you now. How old are you?”
“I just turned seventeen last week.”
“About ten yearsss in your future, then. We recently celebrated your twenty-seventh cycle. ” Sass’s tongue flicked out and Luka got the impression of amusement. “You mussst be very confused indeed. It isss best of you do not know too much. Jussst go with the flow and enjoy the moment. Play along for now.”
“Play along with what?” Luka asked, bewildered.
“Your life,” Sass chuckled. He flicked his tail toward the pictures on the wall. Luka got up and went over to look at them. The biggest in the middle immediately caught his eye.
“I’m—married?” he whispered. He raised his left hand and stared at the silver band on his ring finger. He looked back at the picture and felt an odd rush as he stared, not at himself, but the petite black-haired woman beside him, blue-eyed and smiling from ear to ear. “Wow,” he whispered breathlessly. “God, she’s beautiful—When do I meet her?”
“When the time issss right,” chuckled Sass. He looked off to one side. “Or perhaps now. Her name is Marinette.” He slipped out of sight.
“Luka?” a voice said softly behind him, and he turned and froze as he found himself faced with the real life version. She smiled at him, not so wide as in the wedding picture, but softer, warmer. Kind. His heartbeat picked up. “Oh good, you’re awake. I hope you had a good nap. We’ve both been so tired lately.”
“Marinette,” he whispered, remembering what Sass has told him, and her smile grew a little.
“Hey rock star.” She crossed the room to him and put her arms lightly around his waist. “Still waking up?”
Play along , Sass had told him. “I guess so,” he said roughly. “Or maybe I’m still asleep,” he added, taking in every detail of her face. His heartbeat quickened further. Her soul sang to him, vibrant and alive and intoxicating. Something in him knew her, even if his conscious mind didn’t.
“Charmer,” she smiled, “I guess I’ll just have to wake you up.” She leaned up and kissed him.
Oh God, if this was a dream he never wanted to wake up. Stunned as he was, his body clearly knew her, welcomed her, his arms coming up to hold her, his lips moving with hers like they knew exactly what to do. The rush of desire that coursed through him when she pressed her body up into his was both thrilling and confusing. Luka was kissing this woman ten years older than him that he just met, but he was married to her. On top of that, he shouldn’t have a seventeen year old’s hormones in this body but he sure as hell felt like he did.
Body switching time travel was weird .
She pulled away and for a moment he followed her before catching himself and straightening. The sight of Sass clearly laughing at him over Marinette’s shoulder helped sober him a little. Then Marinette reached up and lightly raked manicured nails across his scalp just above his neck and his eyes half closed in pleasure even as he registered that his hair was short where she touched him though he could feel hair falling on his forehead—did he have an undercut? He needed a mirror.
“We need to go get ready,” she told him. “Juleka will be here soon.”
“Sure,” Luka said dreamily, still focused on her fingers in his hair. God that felt good. He sighed when she drew her hand away.
“Come on,” she said, tugging his arm lightly. “Your suit’s laid out on the bed. And don’t you dare ‘lose’ the tie again.”
He made a face, and she laughed. “I know you hate them,” she teased, “But despite your high opinion of me I can’t change the fashion world overnight, so you’ll have to wear one at least for this party. You knew these galas were part of the deal when you married me, lover.”
Seventeen-year-old Luka would have blushed crimson at the nickname. Grown-up Luka only felt a faint heat in his face. “Yeah, I can’t see that stopping me from marrying you,” he managed, and she gave him a blinding smile that made his knees weak.
“Go,” she said, pushing him towards the hallway she’d come out of. He walked down it blindly, Sass floating alongside him.
“I sssee enjoying the moment will not be a problem,” the kwami chuckled.
“She’s amazing,” Luka breathed, clutching at the heart threatening to jump out of his chest. “I’ve never felt like that...Is this really my future?”
“At the moment, yesss,” Sass said cautiously. “Time isss fluid. You mussst ssstill work for it.”
“I will,” Luka said firmly, and then paused, looking at the doors in the hall.
“Left,” Sass instructed.
“Thanks.” Luka went through the door into the master bedroom. As Marinette had promised, a suit was laid out neatly on the bed, much nicer than anything he’d ever owned. He changed quickly, trying to keep his gaze from lingering on the bed. Shit, he was tall, he realized as he pulled on his long pants. He was in for a lot of smacking his head on doorways if he grew this way while he still lived on the boat.
Luka jumped when Marinette opened the door behind him, and immediately felt stupid. They were married, of course she wouldn’t knock. He was just glad he already had the suit pants on. To her they might be married, but to him, she was still a (really attractive, wow) stranger. Luka turned away quickly when she began to undress, chatting lightly about whatever this party was they were going to. Gala, she’d said; was she an artist or performer?
There were more pictures on the walls, and he looked at them as he buttoned his shirt, partly to keep his mind off the woman undressing behind him. These weren’t formal portraits, but candid photos of them with friends and family and each other. He found one where they were quite young, surrounded by some of Juleka’s friends, in his favorite jacket and hoodie, the ones he’d been wearing this morning in fact. I’ll meet her soon then , he thought, fighting the urge to cheer. He found one of Marinette in a cap and gown, hugging a small Asian woman and being hugged by a huge mustachioed man who had such a look of pride that he could only be her father.
Then he found a picture of himself in some sick stage gear with a fancy guitar, standing next to—
“Sass,” he hissed, when Marinette went into the bathroom. “I played with Jagged Stone? ”
Sass chuckled. “You did.”
“Holy shit,” he muttered. “Will I remember this when it all goes back to normal?”
“Difficult to sssay,” the snake kwami spread his flippers out. “Mossst will not, but asss my partner you are a special case. Mossst likely, yes you will remember sssome of it, but as one remembers a dream. A few clear details, and the rest a haze.”
I won’t forget her, then , he thought, tucking his shirt in and shrugging into his coat, eyes on a picture of him dipping Marinette into a kiss in front of a fountain. Did he know that fountain? It looked familiar.
He froze when a thin wail echoed through the small apartment.
“Luka, can you get the baby?” Marinette called. “I’m not quite done.”
Baby?? He whirled around and looked at Sass, who just grinned, tongue flicking in amusement.
“Luka?” Marinette called again.
“Uh, sure!” Luka called back, stumbling towards the bedroom door, tripping over his suddenly larger than usual feet. Sass went ahead of him, chuckling as they led him down the hallway.
“You are having way too much fun with this,” Luka muttered. “Shouldn’t you be more worried about the integrity of the space-time continuum or some geeky shit like that?”
Sass paused outside the room where the wailing was coming from, “We have been partnersss for many yearsss,” Sass told him, and there something undefinable in the kwami’s smile that gave Luka the shivers. “I realize you have no reason to trussst me, but I trussst you .”
Luka flushed, but before he could say anything, the kwami phased through the door. Luka blinked for a moment. “Neat trick,” he muttered to himself, carefully opening the door. Sass was hovering over a white crib, crooning a sibilant
Luka leaned over the crib, but at the sight of the swaddled and wailing infant, he panicked. “Sass, what do I do?”
“Pick her up,” Sass instructed blandly. “Just mind her head.”
Luka slid his hands, still thin and long but also bigger than he remembered, under the baby, sliding one up under her neck, and lifted her carefully out of the crib. “Oh my God,” he whispered, a fresh wave of panic washing over him. She was so tiny in his grown-up hands.
But once again, with his brain paralyzed, it was as if his body knew what to do. He pulled the baby close and held her to his chest, swaying and making gentle shushing noises. Luka found himself relaxing a little bit and the crying quieted. Softly he sang, “My love is like a red, red rose, that's newly sprung in June,” as his mother used to sing to him and Juleka. “My love is like a melody that’s sweetly played in tune.”
Luka brought the baby up to his shoulder and rubbed his cheek against her soft hair. She made a soft cooing noise. “What’s her name?” he asked quietly.
“Erika,” Sass replied. “With a k.” Luka looked at him and Sass shrugged. “Your mother insisted.”
“She would,” Luka chuckled, and resumed singing to her. “And fare thee well my only love, and fare thee well awhile,” he sang. Luka looked up as Marinette appeared in the doorway, dressed in a glittering gown with her hair in an updo. “And I will come again my dear, though it were ten thousand miles,” he finished softly, eyes fixed on her.
Marinette smiled and came to him. Luka lowered the baby, thinking Marinette meant to take her. Instead she looped the tie he’d left on the bed around his neck and began to tie it for him. “You’re such a good dad,” she said affectionately, and Luka blushed.
She finished with his tie and then stepped back, smoothing the fabric of her dress self-consciously around her middle. “Do I look okay?”
“You’re stunning,” Luka told her honestly. “I can’t believe this is my life. I can’t believe I get to be with someone like you, and—“ He looked down at the baby in his arms, who was beginning to scrunch her face and fuss a little. “I can’t believe I get to have this.”
Marinette smiled, coming near to lay her head on his shoulder and caress the baby’s face. “It’s still overwhelming sometimes isn’t it? Let me take her, I’ll change her while you make her a bottle.
Luka opened his mouth and then shut it again. He just gave her the baby and walked out of the nursery. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to make a bottle, but he couldn’t explain that to Marinette, and he felt he was less likely to irrevocably screw up a bottle than changing the baby. Sass zipped in front of him once he was out of Marinette’s sight. Luka wondered if she knew about the kwami. What was a kwami, anyway? Sass had avoided that answer.
Sass guided him through making the bottle, and Marinette came out with the baby just as he was breathing a sigh of relief at having accomplished it. Luka hovered while she fed the baby— his daughter, oh my God— trying to look at more of the pictures around the room without being too obvious.
“There,” Marinette said, setting Erika in a baby swing by the window that Luka hadn’t even noticed and switching it on. Erika waved her little hand at the brightly colored baubles hanging from it as it swayed her back and forth. “Hopefully that’ll keep her happy for a bit.”
Marinette sighed as she straightened, and then come towards him. He opened his arms automatically to receive her. She snuggled into his chest for a moment (best feeling ever). “I’m excited to go out tonight, but nervous about leaving her. It’s our first night out together since she was born,” she said quietly, and Luka squeezed her tighter at the vulnerable tone in her voice.
Then, grinning up at him, she tugged him down by the tie and kissed him, and Luka was forced to revise his opinions on ties just slightly. Maybe they weren’t all bad. He lost his mind just a little bit when her fingers slid up into his hair again. He pulled her up against him, and lost the rest of his senses in her.
“Mmm, down boy,” she giggled, pulling away from him. “Juleka’s going to be here any minute and I know you don’t want to answer the door all hot and bothered.”
“Right,” he said said breathlessly, wondering if he was always this goggle-eyed and speechless in her presence or if she would eventually notice he was acting like a complete moron.
She gave him a smile that made his toes curl. “I’ll make it up to you when we get home.”
Oh God. Kissing was one thing, but he hoped Ladybug managed to fix things before then because he was pretty sure that if he had to consider the implications of sleeping with his future-wife that he’d just met while in twenty-seven-year-old him’s body it would give him some kind of mental breakdown. Not to mention that she would surely figure out something was up— something was wrong if he passed out the moment she touched him.
A knock at the door saved him from his mini meltdown. “There she is,” Marinette moved away from him to answer the door. Luka took the chance to breathe a little bit and give his older self a mental nod of respect for being around that every day and still managing to, apparently, function like a normal adult.
“Hi bro,” he heard behind him.
“Hey Jules,” he answered automatically, turning, only to get another shock. Juleka had always been pretty, but she’d grown up into a beautiful woman. More importantly, she stood tall, her shoulders back, her hair pulled away from her face, and she looked him in the eye.
He almost teared up, he was so proud. She cocked an eyebrow. “You’re being weirder than usual,” she said.
Not mumbled. Not grunted. She said it. Softly and in a deadpan tone, but audibly, and clearly.
Luka hugged her, overcome. She startled, but patted his back.
“He’s a little emotional today,” Marinette said beside him, rubbing his arm. “I’m supposed to be the one with the post-pregnancy mood swings,” she teased.
Luka straightened and let Juleka go, smiling at them both. “I just feel lucky, that’s all.”
“Whatever,” Juleka huffed, in a very typically Juleka fashion that made him grin. “Where’s my little monster?” She shoved past him, heading for the baby. Marinette slipped under his arm and he put it around her shoulders, squeezing lightly.
Suddenly he felt dizzy, and dimly he heard Marinette say “Luka?” and suddenly everything went black.
He woke up on his back on cold cement, staring up at the clear blue sky, with the familiar sound of the Seine in his ears. I’m back , he thought numbly. His head hurt, probably where he had cracked it on the pavement passing out.
Passing out. Did future me pass out? I hope I didn’t worry Marinette.
Marinette. He blushed—a proper intense, 17-year-old blush—and covered his face with his hands. He picked himself up off the pavement, checked his precious guitar over. If it had been damaged in his fall, Ladybug had fixed it. He packed it up in the case and started his walk back home.
Sass was right. No matter how much he thought over his—vision? Or whatever it was...anyway, the details slipped away. Even Marinette was fading; the feel of her in his arms and the thrill of her kiss was slowly but surely growing foggy moment by moment. By the time he got to the Liberty, all that remained was a hazy impression of love and happiness and belonging and the utter certainty that he wanted it back. Only a few things remained clear—Sass, his future wife’s eyes, her song, the softness of his daughter’s hair on his cheek, his pride in Juleka.
Luka faced his mother’s interrogation, and her brief but genuine concern as she inspected his head and declared it harder than the pavement. Then he went below to his room, feeling tired and vaguely empty. Luka sat on his bed staring at at his bare forearm for a few minutes, and then kicked off his shoes and flopped full length on it.
He wasn’t ready for any of that stuff, Luka told himself. Marriage, fatherhood , are you kidding? He had plenty of life to live before he got to that point. This was fine. He was fine where he was. He liked his unhurried pace. Savor the moment. Live every breath. No strings, very few rules. A wife and a kid and fancy parties (was there a party? he thought he remembered something about a party)...would there even be room for his art in a life like that? It all seemed so...mainstream. Not exactly the rock star lifestyle or wandering street artist that usually popped up in his bored daydreams on the rare days he bothered to think about the future. And there was no passion in marriage. Not like his parents’ long-running on-again off-again chaotic love affair. Marriage was boring and...stable. Secure. It wasn’t like he wanted that.
He remembered those eyes and the way they had looked at him and a warm feeling started in his chest. He no longer remembered what it had felt like to kiss her, but he remembered that it was good . And definitely not passionless.
Luka pulled his pillow over his head and groaned. He’d never been very good at self-deception.
Sunset light was filtering through the portholes when he woke up. He sat up in his bed, ruffled his hair, and rubbed his face.
“Welcome back, sleeping beauty,” Juleka mumbled from her vanity, where she sat brushing her hair.
Luka sighed. “Hey Jules. Were you near the akuma?”
“No,” she replied. “Nowhere close.”
“Good.” He got to his feet and stretched his back.
“Leftovers in the kitchen if you’re hungry.”
“I’m always hungry,” Luka groaned, stretching forward.
“Maman didn’t want to wake you for dinner but we saved you some. She said you got hit?” She looked up at him. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he smiled, coming over to squeeze her shoulder. “Nothing Ladybug couldn’t fix. My head doesn’t even hurt any—“ he stopped, staring at her wall.
“Luka?” Juleka frowned at him.
“Can I see that?” he asked, pointing.
Juleka gave him a look but reached up and pulled the picture down, handing it to him.
Luka stared at the picture of Juleka and two of her classmates. Juleka’s visible eye was open wide, her smile huge, and she was claiming her space in the picture. If he tried, he could see the beginnings of the woman she would become.
But it was the heavenly blue eyes of the girl next to her that caught his attention and quickened his pulse. “Remind me who this is again?”
“It’s Rose and Marinette, from my class,” Juleka mumbled. “I told you about Marinette. She set up the photos and broke the curse.” Slowly she reached for the picture, giving him a concerned look the whole time. He let her take it from his hand and watched her put it back up on the wall. No. No way it was this easy.
“Marinette,” he said to himself thoughtfully. “What’s she like?”
“She’s a sweetheart, until you make her mad. Got some fire in her. Designs clothes. Crazy talented and mad skills to boot. Hates horror movies though.” Luka smiled. That was a pretty big character flaw in Juleka’s eyes, but since he didn’t like them either, it was fine by him. Juleka studied him a moment. “What’s wrong with you, you’re being weird,” she told him flatly.
“I just think her eyes are pretty,” he said, shrugging, and then his stomach growled. “Ugh, I’m going to go eat.”
“Well,” Juleka said slowly as she watched him walk away, “I invited her over for the music festival, so you can meet her in person then.”
“Yeah?” he said absently as he turned away. The music festival was only a couple weeks away. “Cool.”
By the time the festival came, he had managed to put his little out-of-body-and-in-his-other-body experience out of his mind. With as much practice as they’d been cramming in, and all the decorating and set up, getting the lights and the sound all working the way they wanted them to, it wasn’t even that hard.
The number of people on the boat was beginning to get to him and Luka had gone downstairs for a little quiet time before rehearsal, and he must have been down there longer than he meant because they sent someone down looking for him. He heard her startle and, chuckling, he opened his eyes and met hers and…he didn’t know this girl except for Juleka’s picture but...
But he knew those eyes.
And her soul sang .